By Richard Clarke
To boo or not to boo, that has been the question of the week.
Emmanuel Eboue suffered at the hands of certain sections of the Arsenal crowd over the weekend, others were outraged by their decision to hammer a home player when the team were clinging on to a precarious lead against Wigan.
Money is often regarded as the root of all the fury and frustration that surrounds the modern game. The argument goes that players now receive huge salaries and must deliver, meanwhile fans pay high prices for tickets and can therefore say what they want.
Arsène Wenger argues both may be true but he also believes that, at heart, football remains a sport. While it is certainly watched by passionate people who want the best for their team, no amount of money can prevent players feeling precisely the same way.
“If you look at it brutally the fans have a point if you compare the wages [from years ago],” he said. “But even if you divide the wages by a hundred, like they were in my time, I still made bad passes.
“And if, at that time, you would have multiplied my wages by a hundred then I would have still made those bad passes.
“Once you are on the pitch it does not matter how much you are paid, it is how much you want to do well and win. When you are in the game you have to take risks and risks involves misses. If you encourage a player to kick the ball forward whenever he has it then maybe he will not make many mistakes but his strikers will die of hunger. If you encourage your team to play then they will make mistakes and you have to accept that.
“I don’t think [Eboue] made those mistakes because he is well-paid. He made the mistakes because it was part of the moment. And the hostile reaction provoked more bad passes from him because he lost his composure.”
Despite everything, Saturday remains an isolated incident for Arsenal. Wenger does see disgruntlement from the stands creeping in elsewhere but, he accepts the relationship between a club and its supporters is key.
“Without fans we cannot play football,” he said. “We have to turn the fans in our favour even if you have to say sometimes ‘listen you have gone too far, that is not right’.
“But overall the fans want you to do well. On this day they expressed their frustration but then the Premier League has changed.
“For example, two hours after the game, Manchester United beat Sunderland in the last minute with a goal from Vidic. So it is difficult everywhere. And a week earlier Liverpool drew with Fulham and got booed off when they were top of the League.
“But we have not to complain. We have to get the fans on our side because the Club basically belongs to them. When you and I are gone the fans will still be there. They are the core and the strength of this Club.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 10 Dec 2008